LIBERIA: More Ivorian Refugees Cross Over to Liberia

Cote d'Ivoire refugees By: Augustine N. Myers – At least 1, 800 refugees from neighboring Ivory Coast have crossed over to Liberia, in the wake of political tension in that West African Country.

Local authorities of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) said there are more Ivorian refugees expected to arrive in Liberia and other 200 in Guinea.

According to the UNHCR, some 2,000 people, mostly women and children from Cote d’Ivoire have entered neighboring Liberia and Guinea amid the political deadlock precipitated by the dispute over the results of the Ivorian Presidential elections, the United Nations Refugee Agency said Monday.

UNHCR said, it is closely following the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, which has already led some 2,000 Ivoirians, mostly women and children, to seek safety in neighboring Liberia and Guinea, according to local authorities in the two countries. To date, an estimated 1,800 people have crossed into Nimba county, north-eastern Liberia, while another 200 arrived exhausted in Guinea’s Nzerekore region after having walked for two days.

The refugees all fled from villages located between the towns of Danane and Guiglo in western Côte d’Ivoire. They told UNHCR their movement was precautionary, prompted by fears of instability and violence as the political deadlock persists.

The UNHCR said a first group of 300 refugees reached Liberia on 29 November, a day after the second round of presidential elections. Guinea started registering arrivals on Wednesday.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, teams from the Organization are currently visiting the refugees in both countries. They are scattered in isolated and poor border villages, hosted by local communities which have been generously sharing their resources, the UNHCR disclosed.

The UNHCR teams touring the border areas, are said to be registering the new arrivals and assessing their conditions in order to respond to their most pressing needs.

The UN Agency further pointed out that most of the Ivorian asylum seekers are in good physical condition but they urgently need food and shelter to ease the pressure on the local communities hosting them. According to it, they also need clean drinking water, clothing and basic cooking and hygiene items.

The UNHCR said it will continue to monitor very closely the situation in and around Cote d’Ivoire and have taken steps to strengthen their readiness to respond, in case the situation deteriorates, with the hope that Ivorian leaders will resolve the crisis peacefully.

Before the current crisis, The UNHCR says it has been assisting in several West African countries some 13,000 Ivorian refugees who fled the 2002 civil war in their country – including 6,000 in Liberia, 4,000 in Guinea and 2,000 in Mali.

In Côte d’Ivoire, UNHCR is said to be assisting some 25,000 refugees, mainly from Liberia, and 35,000 internally displaced people.

Meanwhile, the Liberian leader, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been briefed about the situation along borders of Liberia, where refugees from neighboring Cote d’Ivoire have been crossing for safety.

The Executive Mansion in Monrovia said, the Liberian Government has been working along with other relief agencies to provide accommodation for those crossing into Liberia.

The Mansion says as of Saturday, the President was informed that more than three thousand Ivoirians had crossed into the Country by way of Nimba County.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Government says the local refugee Agency, the Liberia Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration Commission (LRRRC) is collaborating with other Agencies including the Ministry of Health, the UNHCR, and the World Food Program to provide accommodation and relief to the refugees.

The Liberian Government in a statement said, it is the hope of the President that a solution will be found to the political crisis in the Ivory Coast to ease the plight of the people there.

It further said, the President, as the Chair of the Mano River Union and one of the Vice Presidents of the African Union (AU), is engaged in informal behind-the-scene consultations with all parties to reach an amicable political settlement to the problem in Cote d’Ivoire.